Monday, January 2, 2012

Unfinished Business

Every year I end up with books that are partially read. I give up some of these as a lost cause, but there are others which end up partially read not because I didn't like them, but due to something more intangible. Here's a list of partially read books which I will revisit this year.

1. Freedom – Jonathan Franzen. I have had my rant about it here. I still hope to complete it.

2. Petals of Blood -Ngugi wa Thiong’o. A power tale about a country taking it's first post-colonial steps and the growing pangs it brings (corruption etc). This could be a tale of any country newly freed from the colonial yoke. Can't compare this with Thiong'o's masterpiece 'Wizard of the Crow'. An interesting narrative structure, but somehow three-fourths into the novel I left it.

3. Thug – Mike Dash - The first time I heard about a group/cult of people murdering people for gain on the Indian highways during the 16th/17th centuries was in a Sujatha novel 'ரத்தம் ஒரே நிறம் '. It just was mentioned in passing. But I came across more references over the years and came to know that the cult was called 'Thugee'. I was looking out for a book on them when I came across this. Fairly interesting, but sometimes slips into a repetitive mode. Also some of the assertions made in it were not backed up with bibliographical references. For instance Mike says that the men who were in charge of carrying letters on foot belonged to the lower castes and had to learn all the 4 Vedas. This is intriguing when one considers the rigid caste hierarchy, but this is not backed up with references. Anyway, need to complete this too.

4. Terra Nostra – Carlos Fuentes - Though I read only three fourths of the book, it would not be presumptuous to say that this is a magnificent book. Whether capturing the decadence of Spanish court, the claustrophobic atmosphere of the crypt built by the king or the open spaces of the New world, Fuentes layers the whole novel with generous dollops of surreal imagery and prose. I think I just got a bit suffocated with all the surrealism and had to give it a rest.

5. Blood Meridian – Cormac Mccarthy - I have always had false starts with Mccarthy's books. But when I revisit them the next time, I complete them easily enough. This is a apocalyptic journey into Hell through the American west.

Other than ‘Freedom’ the other books were left hanging mainly due to my mindset at that particular point. Freedom, didn’t like it as much as the others, but will get back to it. Looking back at the books I have enjoyed this year, I have tended towards either straight forward realism (Richard Russo, Deborah Eisenberg) or outwardly playful narratives that can be profound and mind bending (Infinite Jest, Dictionary of Khazars). I think that's the reason I have left these half read.

With the apocalypse seemingly looming down on us in 2012, I better get completing these and other new books.


  1. Till about five years ago I used to have quite a few "partially read books" till I decided I must finish the books I'd started reading. Now I read three books at a time and manage to read them all.

    Happy New Year to you and your family1

  2. Thanks Prashant, Best wishes for the new year to you. I have somehow not been able to do parallel reading for new books. Re-reads I can do 2 or 3 simultaneously.